A recent campaign to stop the phenomenon known as "manspreading" on New York's transportation system has men's rights organizations in a tizzy, especially in Canada, where one "advocacy group" is demanding men be allowed to spread their legs as far and wide as they want to to avoid a pain more awful than anything women have ever known.
Refusing to take into consideration that manspreading (that is, the practice of taking up too much space on public transit because you are a dude with balls) has anything to do with disrespect or the unequal power dynamics in our society, men's rights activists in Canada have launched a petition claiming that keeping their legs open on buses is "biological" and should be allowed to continue as long as women are allowed to "breastfeed and bring strollers onto buses." Which is, of course, bullshit.
I don't have time to call an expert and ask exactly how much space is needed between one's legs in order to prevent the balls from experiencing an asthma attack or excrucipain (TM), but as the proud owner of a set myself, I can tell you that I've never had to take up anyone else's space on the bus just to keep my testicles happy. Men's rights activists can claim it's biology all they want, but unless one is suffering from some kind of condition, most men can, in fact, keep their legs closed and even CROSS THEM (but they shouldn't on public transit) constricting the testicles and yet keeping them totally safe! That's why you don't hear about testicle injuries that much: It's not misandry, it's just that it doesn't happen. Many men I know have been riding the subway for YEARS while being polite and keeping to their space and their genitalia out of view. And they're fine and some of them actually have children, so it doesn't seem to be particularly harmful to any part of the male anatomy.
Not so, says Mike Wood—perfect name, BTW—a member of the misleadingly named Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE). He's got a pretty good reason for why men should be allowed to do whatever they want and not give a flying fuck about personal space.
From The Globe and Mail:
"I feel that if we want to have our legs open on the bus and not have to keep them closed, then I feel that we should be allowed to do so. It's kind of unnecessary to ban a certain thing," said Mr. Wood. "Why are we calling this 'manspreading?' Both women and men can open their legs. Women probably don't do it as often as men do but it's something we all do and I don't understand why we have to label it as such."
Compelling stuff. Men should be allowed to do whatever they want because they can and if they're not allowed to do it something awful will happen like a matriarchal society or the inevitable heat death of the universe happening tomorrow instead of millions of years from now. I don't know. It's like they're not even trying anymore. The petition doesn't even make much sense, suggesting that instead of targeting men specifically, because that's sexist, transit campaigns should target anyone who hogs space, like the people who cheerfully take up two seats with a bag. Mike Wood even gets why, aw shucks, people might be sort of upset by space hogs.
"Sometimes people sit on the outermost seat and put their bag on the inside so that they're taking up two seats. I've seen people sit on one seat and rest their legs on two others and all sorts of crazy things," he said. "I get where they're coming from with the whole thing. People sometimes take up an unnecessary amount of space on the bus."
But then, you know, a bag isn't the same thing as this:
"It happens to me on a regular basis," said Sabreena Delhon, a 32-year-old communications professional who rides the TTC daily to work.
"Usually you're sitting next to the window and a man will come and sit right beside you in a two-seat spot and spreads his legs wide open so his knee is digging into my leg," she said. "And then his arms and shoulder are pushing me against the window, like completely oblivious, or 100 per cent conscious and just trying to flex his power.
Obviously someone hasn't taken a biology course in a long time, because if she had, Delhon would know that men have to take up space or suffer painful and irreversible consequences, such as "accepting something you do so naturally causes other people harm." Oh wait, that's not biology?
The petition has only around 800 supporters so far but organizers are gleeful that their clarion call is being heard (somewhere). However, they're completely ignoring the fact that even if biology was a key issue, that there are lots of things we do that are biologically based in private—such as burping, farting and defecating—and somehow survive.
One man who signed CAFE's petition states that he needs the petition because "I was attacked by a radical woman when I stretched on the bus." "Men have a high center of gravity, broad shoulders, and narrow hips. Because of this we'll tip over if we sit with our legs together," another man wrote in, what appears to be, all seriousness.
New York City's campaign, which already includes concerns such as backpacks taking up too much room, launches in January.
Image via Men Taking Up 2 Much Space on the Train/Tumblr